Saturday, November 24, 2012

The family Christmas Pudding recipe - living family history

Genealogy isn't just about what you uncover that you'd never known, it's also about recording what you do know for future generations. Having children now, I've noticed I've been making an effort to cook for them some things I enjoyed as a child. There are a few standouts, but nothing moreso than Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding is rich tasting, extremely dense, and full of various dried fruits, and as the name suggests it is only consumed at Christmas time. My paternal grandmother Jean HALL nee STANILAND (see for example would make the pudding at some point during the year and it would sit on a shelf for months prior to Christmas. I recall looking into a big rumbling pot of water that would boil for hours, and see the metal tin containing the pudding sitting in the water and cooking. Come Christmas day, it would be served for desert with cold ice cream, whipped cream, or hot egg custard (or a combination if one was so inclined. The particularly exciting part as a child was that coins were included in the pudding - pre-decimal silver Australian coins such as shillings, threepences or sixpences - never copper coins. I have a feeling my grandmother cooked them in the pudding, but in later years they were secretly inserted after cutting up the pudding to ensure everyone was a winner, and perhaps for reasons of hygeine.

I e-mailed my aunt Liz so seek out the recipe. She lives in England, and sure enough at some point in the past Nana had typed up (on her typewriter) a copy of the recipe, and then added handwritten notes. Liz has added further instructions.

I decided to put this Christmas recipe on my blog, partly because Nana's first comment in typing it up was that she couldn't find it and wanted to find a way to keep it safe a sound. I don't know where Nana sourced her recipe from, but I'm sure Nana cooked it for her parents, so my children will be the fifth generation to enjoy this recipe.

As Liz says, "Here is THE Xmas pudding recipe, transcribed from the original typed version sent to me. The italics are the original written bits added in the margin." I have added comments at the bottom, particularly related to sourcing ingredients in America. And so, to the 'Hall' Christmas pudding recipe:


CONSTERNATION!  I have been ten minutes looking for the recipe. I shall have to engrave it on something. Be sure you keep it safe and sound.


8 oz plain flour
8 oz fine white breadcrumbs. Buy a loaf of white bread (plain bread) leave out in the air for a couple of days and it will go stale. Grate it or use the Kitchen Whizz. (the Whizz is marvellous).
1 lb currants
1 lb sultanas
½ lb raisins
4 oz peel 
(or use 3 lb mixed fruit) – get good quality fruit. I use Xed fruit because you get cherries in that. If you buy individual fruit, buy 2oz glace cherries and add.
1 lb brown sugar
1 lb butter
8 eggs
1 large carrot (medium size I use)
6 tablespoons o/proof rum, sherry or brandy. (I use o/proof rum and about 8 tablespoons. Not too much.)
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 tablespoon orange jam
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons mixed spice (make sure it is fresh)
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda

Prepare fruit. (Wash it and dry in oven for a few minutes – not hot!). Spread on tray

Scrub and grate carrot.

Sift flour, soda, pinch salt and spices. Rub butter into dry ingredients. Add fruit, carrot, breadcrumbs and sugar. Beat eggs, gradually add to them spirits and essence. Add to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add trinkets or coins. Allow to stand one hour. Two large pudding bowls. Grease and flour. Place a circle of greased greaseproof paper in the base of the bowls. Fill to within two inches of top of basin. Place greased greaseproof paper on the top of the puddings. Just on top of the puddings. Take about two thicknesses of aluminium foil with plenty of hangover. Place on top of basins. Tie tightly with a couple of rounds of strong string, making sure the top won’t move. In a large saucepan boil about six inches of water, or about four inches. The water should come about one third of the way up the basin. Place the basin, covered, in the saucepan and keep on the boil- just a bubble will do as long as it is boiling – and cook for about six to seven hours. The length of time will determine how dark it will go. I give it about six hours. On day of eating boil up again as above for about one hour or 1 ½ hours. Keep the top on the pudding until eating day. It should rise a little and round off to the top of the basin. You can keep the pudding in the fridge (not the freezer) until eating day.

Hope all is clear. It really is not hard to do. Get a big dish to make up all the mix. After all, you have seen me make it many times. You should have no trouble. But be sure it is water-tight. You need someone to put their finger on the string. Perhaps this is where Mark could help.

I get my fruit washed and dried one day, carrot grated and put in covered container in fridge and then it is not such a big job. You can also get basins and foil ready the day before. Make sure foil covers well and no tears in it. Best of British luck! It will be fine – a pushover for you. As the boiling time goes by you will have to add water (boiling water) otherwise it will boil dry. Cook on very low heat – just enough to keep water boiling.


Everyone loves this pudding. Anita and I are not great fans of Xmas pud but it is not too heavy. The boys always clean it up.

If you are making the full size recipe you will need a really big bowl. I halve this recipe and get two medium size puddings out of it, plus a bit left over for a mini-pud for one. My pudding bowl is seven inches across the top and about 4 ½  inches deep. For the other pud I use a soufflĂ© dish that is about the same volume. One of these feeds four of us quite well.

I always buy pre-washed mixed fruit but there are no cherries so I add maybe a dozen halved glace cherries, usually red but some green or yellow look nice too.

I buy a really cheap loaf of sliced white bread and leave the slices out for a day to firm up (it doesn’t go that stale anyway) and cut the crusts off and use the food processor for breadcrumbs.

I put in an extra tablespoon (at least) of rum. We started off with Bundy rum, moved to Kenya Cane and now have to resort to Tesco Value rum. I have never tried it with sherry or brandy. I also put in the full amount of almond essence and spices, even when halving the recipe but don’t go overboard. The odd extra teaspoon never hurts. I put in a medium carrot regardless.

I forgot to say that Mum used to mix hers by hand (I really do mean by hand - wooden spoon too tiring) and I do too. Yes this means getting up to your elbows in butter and fruit but it does the job nicely.

I use my slow cooker (Crock Pot) and cook for 12 or 13 hours. It does a slow bubble and you can almost forget it. It does need an occasional top up of water. I put a saucer under the bowl when cooking but it does take up room. I sometimes cook the second pudding in a saucepan, again for about 11 or 12 hours but more topping up required. The colour is amazing – very dark and rich looking. We eat one pudding each Xmas and I keep the second for the next year – absolutely wonderful. It just goes in the far back corner of our pantry unit  for 12 months but of course our summers are not like yours. I’m not sure my puddings actually rise all that much, maybe a tad.



SO, what can I add? First, the ingredients, in the context of America. I decided to make the pudding in early November, but will be making another after Christmas is over that can sit around for a year or so.

As you can see, this recipe requires a large number of ingredients, and quite a lot of them! There were a number of concerns. Firstly, 'mixed spice' can be exchanged in America with Pumpkin pie spice. Secondly, 'sultanas' could not be found anywhere here - I substituted for 'California raisins' which are light in colour just like sultanas. Thirdly, 'glaced cherries' are called 'candied cherries' in the United States, and were at my local supermarket only in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. This restricts WHEN i can prepare a pudding based on the availability of 'seasonal' ingredients - Heaven forbid that I do anything out of the beloved seasons. I did not make my own breadcrumbs.

The recipe is easy to follow, however I found that concept of 'rubbing butter into dry ingredients' a little lacking in detail. To achieve this, warm the sticks of butter to room temperature, cut into small pieces, and add to the bowl on top of dry ingredients. Then simply dig your hands in a rub and squeeze the butter in amongst the dry ingredients. Amazingly, it wasn't a particularly messy process as the dry ingredients stuck to the surface of the butter.

The various dried fruits and glaced cherries all reading for mixing. I use a KitchenAid mixer with what I consider to be quite a large mixing bowl. However, I HALVED the recipe and the bowl was close to full.

Matilda was more than happy to help lick the bowl. I used a stirring hook to mix, however, I subsequently learnt that the 'mixing' is normally done by hand. I will do so in the future. The final product was an immensely dense pudding mix that was heaped into a tin for sealing and boiling.

I cannot show the final product as it is still November, but I will do so once it has been photographed out of the tin, and hopefully consumed. I ended up putting the entire mix into one pudding tin, but next time it will go into a few different-sized porcelain pudding bowls to spread out consumption over the course of the year.


EDIT: Dad wrote in with some additional context:
Looking at Matilda sitting there looking at the ingredients mixing bought back lots of memories. I can tell you that the original recipe came from The Woman's Weekly which was an iconic Australian magazine published in the 1950's. Nana kept the recipe in a drawer in the kitchen at Croydon and would produce it each Christmas to generate the puddings. Making the Christmas puddings was an event that both Liz and I looked forward to as it was a pre-cursor to Christmas.  

1 comment:

Compliance Hong Kong said...

This looks delicious, I will try it out. Thanks for the recipe.